What if you turned on the faucet in your bathroom or kitchen and no water flowed out? How far would you have to go to obtain enough water for your family’s needs for one day? How much do we take our immediate access to clean water for granted?
Aida Muluneh was hired by an international organization, WaterAid, to help shed light on the extreme inequities in access to clean water. WaterAid has the statistics to make their case—working in 34 countries for the poorest and most marginalized people—who they have served since 1981.1 One water historian contends that, “the struggle to command increasingly scarce, usable water resources is set to shape the destinies of societies and the world order of the 21st century.”2
Called upon to be a truth teller, Muluneh created a series of twelve striking photographs that focus on the burden women bear in finding and carrying water. She set the stage for most of the photographs in an Ethiopian region called the Danakil Depression, one of the hottest and driest places on Earth. Its salt lakes and the air and gas from hot sulfur springs and boiling lava lakes accentuate the sense of being on another planet. In Distant Echoes of Dreams, women move across this primordial geography carrying water in clay pots tied to their backs.
I first saw Muluneh’s series in London and heard the artist speak about it, as you can too in this short segment. This photograph was just recently acquired into SAM’s collection and will be on view in Our Blue Planet: Global Visions of Water, opening March 18. The small image on your screen does not reveal the details, texture, and visceral impact of the Muluneh’s original work. Accompanying this image in SAM’s galleries will be a video that takes you to Ethiopia with the artist as she creates this indelible series.
– Pam McClusky, SAM Oliver E. and Pamela F. Cobb Curator of African and Oceanic Art
2 Water: the Epic Struggle for Wealth, Power and Civilization, by Steven Solomon, 2010, Harper and Collins, NYC, pg. 367.
Photo: Distant Echoes of Dreams, 2018, Aida Muluneh, Archival digital photograph, 31 1/2 x 31 1/2 in., General Acquisition Fund, 2021.40 © Artist or Artist’s Estate.
Article Source: Seattle Art Museum